Batter up

Wednesday 21 Apr 2010

Populous-designed baseball stadium opens in Minnesota and thoughts on how stadiums can shape the fan experience

For all the new supertall towers and museum designs I’ve seen over the past couple weeks on WAN, there’s another type of building I’m more exited to see. A baseball stadium. Spring to me is all about baseball – a distinctly American game that’s been gaining a more worldwide audience. Last week, the Minnesota Twins, located in the Midwest state of Minnesota, opened its brand-new ballpark designed by Populous with local architect Hammel, Green and Abrahamson. It’s hard to throw a fastball in the major leagues without hitting one Populous (formerly HOK Sports) stadium – Yankee Stadium (Yankees) and Citi Field (Mets) both in New York, Camden Yards (Orioles) in Baltimore, AT&T Park in San Francisco (Giants), Marlins Ball Park in Florida and Citizens Bank Park (Phillies) in Philadelphia among others.

Replacing the former Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is Target Field, Target Field is Major League Baseball’s greenest ball park having achieved silver-level certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design by the U.S. Green Building Council.

While I haven’t yet visit this new ballpark the visuals on TV during opening day against the Boston Red Sox (my favourite team), were impressive. The ballpark design showcases the urban skyline with materials drawn from the state’s granite and limestone cliffs shaped by ice age glaciers. Instead of a dome and artificial turf, the new stadium features vivid green grass but offers refuge from the elements during unseasonable weather, such as snowstorms in April or September. Wide concourses and seating overhangs will offer dry places to wait out a rain delay and the concourses also feature radiant heaters.

The exterior features Minnesota-native limestone and echoes the look of natural stone formations with gaps or fissures in the stone massing and ledges. These ledges or steps provide distinctive viewing sections that create unique experiences for fans. And if last year’s debut of Yankee Stadium is any guide, perhaps the Twins will make a run for the World Series as the Yankees did, capturing their lasted crown after a nine-year drought.

So it was fitting last week, that the Twins opening their new ballpark against the Red Sox and while they won the opening game on 11 April, the Sox came back to take the second one on 14 April.

While I have enjoyed watching games at newer stadium such as Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and Camden Yards in Baltimore, I can’t shake my preference for nearly 100-year-old Fenway Park in Boston. No doubt, it can be a creaky, persnickety ballpark that has seen way more heartbreak (go Google the World Series for 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986) than triumph (World Series 2004 and 2007), but I wouldn’t want to go to games on a regular basis anywhere else. Fenway Park opened in 1912 and was designed by Osborn Engineering Company. The park’s peculiar size and shape were largely shaped by the surrounding city streets. The 37-foot-tall left field wall, known as the Green Monster, compensates for the short depth of left field in the park. Fenway isn’t a template for American ballparks as it really is unique thread in the urban fabric of Boston. But that is precisely what makes it a piece of Americana. The Green Monster, the rickety and very uncomfortable seats, but small and intimate sense of the ballpark offers the best sense of the game. (Sorry Yankee fans, I will not wax philosophical on the new Yankee stadium other than to say I really loved watching this game there ).

So while attending Red Sox games Fenway Park (and now that I have graduated from college I can freely admit to skipping many a Friday class to go to games) shaped my love of the sport and context with which I approach other stadiums, I’m curious how WAN readers view other sports architecture? What stadium or area is the best to watch a football match etc.? Post your thoughts in the comments.

So with the bars of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” playing in my head, I’m looking forward to the 2010-11 baseball season, exploring the new ballparks and of course cheering on the Red Sox to crush the Yankees. Play ball!

Jennifer Potash
News Editor

Key Facts:

United States

Want to submit your project to World Architecture News?

Contact The Team